Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our Underworld Adventure

As promised, I need to tell you about our little (ahem) under-the-house adventure.
Let me just start from the beginning.
Our kitchen sink's faucet has been leaking for several months. It's gotten worse lately, and finally I couldn't take it any more, and I told Paul we HAD to replace it. So we went to town and got the new faucet. Should have been simple - old one off, new one on. The end.
Of course, it never could be that easy for us.
When we turned the water back on, the hot water didn't work - barely a trickle was coming out. We thought something was wrong with the new facet, so we hooked the old one back up - same problem. So then it became apparent that something had happened with the old line, somewhere on the other side of the shut off. Paul figured it was time to replace them. He and his dad are pretty good do-it-yourself plumbers, so they decided to tackle the project the following week.
Getting to the area under the kitchen requires belly crawling from the west side of our house, around some duct work, through a hole in the rock foundation, and finally under the kitchen. Once you're under the kitchen, you can actually sit up and have a bit of head space to work on your project. Paul got back there with the plumbing, and next time he came out, he came inside and said, "I figured out why our pipes freeze so much. There is NO insulation under the kitchen." (Our pipes freeze at least a four times each winter.) Also, he told me that the insulation under the back porch is sketchy (random pieces tacked up in random places, and half of that falling off onto the ground), and the north side is not set on a concrete piling/wall, like we had thought, but was merely set on a wall of cinder blocks, and the wind was whistling through them. (That would explain that major draft that comes from the back porch.)
The daylight is the hole where we crawl in. I'm about to crawl through the worst spot - where a heating duct makes the crawlspace barely wider than my backside, and not tall enough to get my knees under me to actually crawl. (I have no arm strength to pull myself with my arms.)
He and his dad got the plumbing fixed. The next day, Paul and I decided to tackle the insulation. We started with the kitchen floor..... Getting all the stuff back there you need (like 3 huge rolls of fluffy insulation), while having to belly crawl 20 feet is a feat in itself. We got in the swing of things - put the insulation up, he'd staple up his end, then I'd staple my end while he got the next piece ready. We were just finishing up one side, when I decided to staple myself instead of the insulation. Despite the "EXIT" written on TWO places on the staple gun, I held it upside down. I saw two staples go flying, and thought it was just because I didn't have the gun squared up against the board. So I grasped the bottom with my other hand and pressed it again.
Apparently the bright orange writing wasn't obvious enough.....
Pain. Lots and lots of pain.
And blood.
And we were stuck under the house.
When I got brave enough to take my hand off of it to inspect the damage, my finger was already swollen and turning purple. Blood was gushing from one of the holes, making me suspect I had nicked a vein. So I clamped my hand back over it and sat watching Paul finish up what he could do on his own. Fifteen minutes later, the bleeding had stopped, so we crawled out.
Of course, this would happen on the week I needed to play piano for a special at church. I made arrangements to have someone fill in for me, anticipating the worst. However, the worst was at the moment of injury. The swelling was down by that night, and I did have some bruising a few days later, but nothing what I anticipated.
We finished up the project on the following Saturday. Paul and his dad worked on a drain problem (as I said - projects are never simple), while I finished up under the kitchen by myself. (No pride or anything.) Then I cut sheets of insulation board for Paul to tack up against the concrete block wall, and handed them back to him.
This weekend is our first truly COLD spell (highs in the 20s) since we finished up, and I can honestly say, the house does feel warmer. If you walk to the bathroom barefoot in the middle of the night, you don't feel like you have two bricks of ice attached to your feet when you get back to bed. And it seems to have helped with the draft. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but at least at this point, I haven't noticed as much of one.
I think that project is completely done now. Now, on to the next one...........
I have about 20 pictures of this adventure, but after 3 days and multiple attempts each day, these two are the only ones Blogger has uploaded for me. I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to go ahead and publish this, and hopefully add more photos later.

Monday, December 27, 2010


When Paul was wasting time last week, looking at, he found another website, owned by the same people, called (Personally, I could think of about a thousand better names, but whatever.)
My brother calls such websites (and also Food Network) "food porn." I would have to agree. If you are trying to lose weight, don't click over to that website. You will gain 10 pounds just looking at the pictures. And then go eat gross leftover Christmas food, when what you're really craving is a huge hamburger smothered in cheese and sauteed onions on a toasted ciabatta bun.
So of course, Paul found something there that he wanted. Badly. Peanut Butter Brownie Bottom Cheesecake.
Like, he printed off the recipe, wouldn't stop talking about it, and was dropping totally un-subtle hints. I had tons of baking to do, so I told him it wasn't going to happen until after Christmas. And that was true - I had no intention of even attempting it, because for the first thing, I didn't even have the springform pan needed to make it in the first place.
Paul and I didn't get each other Christmas presents this year, because we bought concert tickets to see his (our) favorite violinist in February in Omaha. I kind of planned on getting him a little something, but couldn't think of anything, and ran out of time. So, on a trip to the store, I bought the ingredients for the cheesecake. My original plan was to wrap them up and have that be his gift. But then on Christmas Eve, I decided I'd just go ahead and make it. It wasn't completely finished by Christmas morning, but close enough.

This was quite possibly the richest, most decadent dessert I've ever eaten, and most definitely the richest I've ever cooked. I couldn't even finish one piece, and Paul requested I take the leftovers to my family gathering (he worked Christmas weekend) to try to get rid of them, because he wouldn't be able to eat more than one piece a day. He called it "the 12 days of Christmas."
Changes I made to the recipe:
  1. I baked the brownie crust 20-22 minutes (reduced from 25-30 min), to make it a little more fudge-y.
  2. I only used half the amount of chips on top of the crust, because my pan was too shallow - had I used the full 2 cups, I wouldn't have had room for the filling. I thought it tasted perfect this way. (As it was, I made two "tart" pans of filling-only cheesecakes.... This recipe really needs an extra-deep 5" springform pan.)
  3. I didn't set the springform pan in water. I didn't trust my old pan (borrowed from my sister) to not leak, so I set a 9x13 pan of water on the shelf below the shelf the cheesecake was on. Same principle: moist heat keeps the cheesecake from cracking. I don't really know what actually setting the pan in water would accomplish that my method didn't.
  4. Because I beat the filling too much (trying to get the cream cheese chunks out), the batter had too much air in it, and fluffed up during baking. The top also got pretty brown (presumably for the same reason), so I took it out at just over an hour, because it seemed to be set. It wasn't undone, but it could have been more done. (I read afterwards to mix on the lowest setting, and only until the ingredients are just mixed. Oops.)
  5. I only made a half recipe of the chocolate topping, because the recipe said it made so much. It was the perfect amount.
And even though my diet/excercise commitment started today, I had to have another piece. Before it went bad in the fridge, you know.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


(I was trying to make conversation with Nathan on the way home from church, trying to talk him out of the bad mood he'd been in all morning.)

"Hey, Nathan, guess what I just saw at that house? I saw a fat cat!"
"A fat cat?"
"Yes! He was gray like Brutus, but he was FAT."
"Fat like Simone?"

(Tee hee! That's just for you, Carlsie.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Rhodes Report

This is our Christmas letter, for those of you who don't get it..... or who won't get it until after Christmas, because I was so late getting them out.

With just a few days left until Christmas, I (Rachel) can’t believe I haven’t even started this letter. It just seems like things keep popping up! (As if the excuse of having two boys isn’t enough!) Case in point, right now, we are in the middle of a “home improvement project” that has become way more complicated than it was supposed to. (Nothing is ever simple around here.) Original project: take the leaking faucet off the kitchen sink, put on a new faucet. Well, in that process, something happened with the hot water line, so we didn’t have hot water to the kitchen after the new faucet was in. So Paul decided it was time to replace the old water lines to the kitchen. In crawling under the house, he found that there was virtually no insulation whatsoever under the north end of our house (no wonder our pipes freeze!). So by the time it’s all over, we will have not only a new faucet, but also new lines to the kitchen sink, new lines to the bathroom sink (in fixing one thing, we broke something else), and lots of new insulation under the kitchen and back porch.
It has been an eventful year. Some things are the same: Paul is still working at AGC (11 years). I still stay home with the boys. I still did baby-sitting one or two days a week, although it was a lot more sporadic than last year. We still are on the praise team at church. We still live outside of Ottawa, and we still drive the same cars and have the same pets. We still did a garden, and it still did poorly (too much rain!) - although my fall re-plants did great.
If I could choose a theme for the year, it would be God’s provision. We had so many unexpected expenses this year, with doctors bills, hospital bills, dentist bills, funeral travel, home project emergencies, car repairs, and other things. It seemed like when we needed the money, we got it just in time, whether through Paul having overtime at work, or me babysitting. I am so grateful that God has done this, and that we can go into the new year with all of our bills paid. (I’m also looking forward to actually having some room to breathe on the next paycheck!)
Paul lost two grandparents this year. In January, Paul’s grandmother (Doug’s mom) passed away. In August, his grandfather (Janice’s dad) passed away during a surgery. Both were well into their 80s, and had lived full lives, but still will be missed. We traveled to Colorado for his grandmother’s funeral during the coldest week of the year, and then to Medicine Lodge during the hottest month of the year.
My own grandfather had a major stroke in May following knee replacement surgery. He again proved his stubbornness in recovery, and was back home within 2 months. We are so proud of his progress, as he is almost back to normal, only occasionally having trouble with his speech.
Besides the aforementioned house project, we also had to replace our outdoor cellar entrance this summer. All the rain, plus constant freezing and thawing all last winter, had caused one rock wall of the entryway to cave in. We had to wait until September for it to be dry enough to start the project, but now our new entrance looks SO nice, and is so much better at keeping any drafts (not to mention critters!) out.
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve had a chunk of doctor and hospital bills this year. In April, Jacob had a surgery to find/retrieve an undescended testicle. (There is an upped cancer risk if everything is not in it’s proper place.) The full name of the surgery was 1st Stage Laparoscopic Right Fowler Stevens Orchiopexy. Despite the long name, it’s a fairly minor surgery. However, since he had to be anesthetized, and he was only 6 months old, it was kind of worrisome for us as parents. He had no problems at all, and was back to business, trying to crawl that evening.
Both boys had emergency room visits in June, one day apart. They contracted The Stomach Bug From Hell. Nathan threw up every 10 minutes for 6 hours, so after consulting with his doctor, I took him to the emergency room. He received an IV of fluids and anti-nausea medicine, and was a total champ about the whole procedure. The following day, Jacob started with the same thing. He wasn’t getting sick as often, but after not having a wet diaper in 9 hours, the doctor thought he should go in for fluids as well. But the emergency room doctor was nervous to do an IV on Jacob because he was so young. They gave him an anti-nausea pill, which pretty well controlled his throwing up, but it took him a week to get fully re-hydrated (which you tell by the amount of wet diapers). Paul also got the Dread Disease - on Father’s Day. My birthday was two days later, and by then, all I wanted was to NOT have to see any more poop or puke. Then Jacob got thrush (basically a yeast infection in his mouth) due to his weakened immune system, which took a month and several trips to the doctor’s office to finally cure, with antibiotics and home remedies.
We thoroughly enjoy having two boys. They make us smile and laugh so much. They have just started playing well together and wrestling. But it is crazy here some days. Nathan had just grown out of the phase where he had to pull every toy out, and then Jacob grew into it…. I had a blissful two or three months when the house actually looked presentable most days. But now, that’s just a dream. I’ve decided that trying to clean house while they are awake is like trying to bail water from the Titanic with a teacup, so most days I don’t even try. I wait until they are asleep, or a day that Paul is off to distract them while I get stuff done.
Nathan turned 3 in September. We are constantly impressed by his vocabulary and his ability to use it - until he gets upset, when he reverts to tears and whining/yelling. He is fully potty trained now - he has been sleeping in underpants for a couple months now, and it has probably been a month since his last wet night. He loves his wooden train tracks, the sand pile, and “Daddy’s tractors.” (Daddy has all the fun tracked tractors, 16-row planters, and big combines with 16 row-headers that Nathan isn‘t quite old enough to respect on his own.) He loves when we go to my parents to help work cattle, and acts out sorting cattle when he finds a stick (“Get down there!”). And COMBINES! Nathan managed to hitch a ride 8 separate times with different farmers during the harvest this fall (always with Daddy or Mommy and sometimes brother also). He still points out the fields he “helped combine.” Nathan is Mr. Eagle Eyes - he is constantly pointing out things outside and from the back seat that we hadn’t noticed. In September, he started Cubbies, the preschool part of the Awana program at our church, and is doing well in memorizing his verse every week.
Even though I was more experienced as a Mommy when Jacob was born, I was still exhausted all the time. He didn’t start taking naps until he was 5 months old. He’d take little 20 minute naps here and there, but otherwise was not happy unless he was in my arms. And of course, his naps didn’t coincide with his brother’s at first! (No wonder I got nothing done!) He started sitting at 6 months and crawling shortly after. He started pulling himself up to stand at 7 months, and then immediately started climbing…..everything! He has crashed so many time off so many different places; you think he’d learn. Jacob took his first step at 10 months, and was walking on his own by the time he was 11 months. He turned 1 in October while we were in Colorado visiting Paul’s grandpa. He said his first real word a couple weeks ago - hot. He does say Mamamamama and Da (which may or may not actually mean Mom and Dad). He doesn’t talk, but babbles and “sings” a lot, and “talks” to us with lots of uh, ah, and eh’s. Jacob loves the dog and cat, and gets excited when he sees any animal. He likes his toys, but I think he prefers dragging anything and everything he can get his hands on out of the kitchen. He also has a habit of putting everything in his mouth, which I really hope he outgrows soon.
Other significant celebrations were Paul’s 30th birthday in July - which we celebrated with balloons, a “Happy Birthday, Daddy!” poster decorated by Nathan, and a huge cookie-cake - and our 6th anniversary in March - which we celebrated with a blizzard, a sick child, Paul working, and me getting my car stuck in a snow drift. Lovely times, both. We got to go to Silver Dollar City with Paul’s family, the first weekend of May during SDC‘s 50th anniversary celebration. We took a trip to Colorado in October to see Paul’s grandfather, arriving just in time to see the first snow in the mountains. Nathan still talks about everything he saw on the trip. On our way home, we stopped to see my sister, Carlsie, in Ness City (Western Kansas). The first weekend of December was our church’s annual Bethlehem production - we had new roles this year: I organized meals for 100 volunteers each night (with fill-in roles in the stable and marketplace), Paul was a “wise guy” (instead of a Roman Soldier), and the boys were adorable Bethlehemites.
That is our year in a nutshell. We hope every one is doing well and that God has blessed you as much as He has us. We look forward to what He is going to do in the coming year!

Paul, Rachel, Nathan, & Jacob

The photo uploader is being stupid. I've tried twice to upload photos to this, and it sat an loaded all night, and never finished, and the next time, it said it uploaded them, but they aren't here (obviously). I'll try to upload Christmas pictures of the boys sometime today.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I've Been Up To

It took like two weeks to finish the project (the delay, in part, due to me inserting a 5/8" staple into my finger). But I think we're done crawling under the house. All the gory details later.


[Nathan coming down the stairs with all the money from his piggy bank in a cup.]

Nathan: I got my money. I give it to the guys, and put it in the bucket.

(He wants to give his money to the Salvation Army. We've really tried to teach him about giving this Christmas, and what they use the money for.)


[Nathan decided to skip his nap Monday. After a meltdown, when it was too late to make him take a nap, but too early to put him to bed, I put on a movie to help him chill out.]

Nathan: [when realizing his eyes were starting to droop] Ooh, I sleepy! I gotta get to work. [hops up, and starts running around in an effort to stay awake.]

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm So Behind!

I apologize all the time for lack of writing. Really, I think of stuff all the time that I want to write about, and I have about 147 pictures I want to post, including pictures of our vacation and Jacob's first birthday - TWO MONTHS AGO. But I just don't think of it at convenient times.
Right now I'm in the middle of trying to get Christmas cards sent out (I've got the cards bought and the letter almost finished), and we're in the middle of a plumbing and insulation project under the house (a week and a half and counting....).
Well, both boys are fighting over a toy while on my lap, and I have gifts to wrap. We are doing seriously minimalistic Christmas this year, so whereas I've only bought 8 gifts, I only have about 3 left (total; that includes individual gifts for the boys). We've talked about buying them more, but then it becomes about the STUFF, and I am trying to avoid that.
Anyhow. Need to turn the TV off and get on things. I'd like to get the kitchen clean today, for the first time in about two weeks.........